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April 10, 2011

16 SEO Tactics That Will NOT Bring Targeted Google Visitors

In my day-to-day reviews of client websites, I see lots of things done to websites in the name of SEO that in reality have no bearing on it.

In an effort to keep you from spending your precious time on supposed SEO tactics that will have absolutely no effect on your rankings, search engine visitors, conversions or sales, I present you with 16 SEO tactics that you can remove from your personal knowledge base and/or SEO toolbox as being in any way related to SEO:

1. Meta Keywords: Lord help us! I thought I was done discussing the ole meta keywords tag in 1999, but today in 2011 I encounter people with websites who still think this is an important SEO tactic. My guess is it’s easier to fill out a keyword meta tag than to do the SEO procedures that do matter. Suffice it to say, the meta keyword tag is completely and utterly useless for SEO purposes when it comes to all the major search engines – and it always will be.

2. XML Site Maps or Submitting to Search Engines: If your site architecture stinks and important optimized pages are buried too deeply to be easily spidered, an XML site map submitted via Webmaster Tools isn’t going to make them show up in the search results for their targeted keywords. At best it will make Google aware that those pages exist. But if they have no internal or external link popularity to speak of, their existence in the universe is about as important as the existence of the tooth fairy (and she won’t help your pages to rank better in Google either!).

3. Link Title Attributes: Think that you can simply add descriptive text to your “click here” link’s title attribute? (For example: <a href=”page1.html” title=”Spammy KeywordsHere” >Click Here</a>.) Think again. Back in the 1990s I too thought these were the bee’s knees. Turns out they are completely ignored by all major search engines. If you use them to make your site more accessible, then that’s great, but just know that they have nothing to do with Google.

4. Header Tags Like H1 or H2: This is another area people spend lots of time on, as if these fields were created specifically for SEOs to put keywords into. They weren’t, and they aren’t. They’re simply one way to mark up your website code with headlines. While it’s always a good idea to have great headlines on a site that may or may not use a keyword phrase, whether it’s wrapped in H-whatever tags is of no consequence to your rankings.

5. Keyworded Alt Text on Non-clickable Images: Thought you were clever to stuff keywords into the alt tag of the image of your pet dog? Think again, Sparky! In most cases, non-clickable image alt tag text isn’t going to provide a boost to your rankings. And it’s especially not going to be helpful if that’s the only place you have those words. (Clickable images are a different story, and the alt text you use for them is in fact a very important way to describe the page that the image is pointing to.)

6. Keyword-stuffed Content: While it’s never been a smart SEO strategy, keyword-stuffed content is even stupider in today’s competitive marketplace. In the 21st century, less is often more when it comes to keywords in your content. In fact, if you’re having trouble ranking for certain phrases that you’ve used a ton of times on the page, rather than adding it just one more time, try removing some instances of it. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

7. Optimizing for General or Peripheral Keywords: You’re not gonna rank for a one-word keyword. You’re just not. You are likely not even going to rank for a 2-word keyword. So stop wasting your time optimizing for them, and find the phrases that answer the searcher’s question. For example, most people seeking legal help aren’t putting the one word “lawyer” into Google. They have a very specific need for a certain type of lawyer as well as a specific location in which they hope to find said lawyer. So rather than throwing the word “lawyer” all over your site, ask yourself this: There are people out there who want what you’re providing. What are they typing into Google? Now focus on those words instead. And don’t even get me started on people who put words on their pages that are barely related to what they do “just in case” someone who types that into Google might be interested in what they offer. You won’t rank for those phrases anyway, but even if you magically did, they won’t make you any sales.

8. Targeting the Same Keywords on Every Page: The keyword universe for any product or service is ginormous. (It really is.) Even if there are one or two phrases that bring you the most traffic, why the heck would you want to miss out on the gazillions of others as well? Stop focusing every page on the same handful of phrases and start targeting each page to its own specific set that most relate to what you’re offering there.

9. Focusing on Ads as Links: Banner ads, Google AdWords links and most other forms of online advertising do not create links that count toward your link popularity. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use this form of marketing – just don’t be deluded into thinking that it will have a direct effect on your organic search engine rankings and traffic.

10. Mad-lib Doorway Pages: While you may offer lots of products or services that are extremely similar to one another with just one minor change, it’s not a good idea to create separate pages for each of them and making only minor keyword changes to each of them. While this may be okay for paid search landing pages, it’s a duplicate content spammy nightmare for organic SEO purposes. (In fairness, I do sometimes still see this technique work, but it’s still not advisable to do it.)

11. Linking to Google or Other Popular Websites: It’s the links pointing to your pages from other sites that help you with SEO, not the pages you’re linking out to. ‘Nuff said.

12. Redirecting a Keyworded Domain to Your Real One: So you have your business name as your domain (as you should), but you have noticed the unfortunate fact that Google seems to really like domains that have keywords in them. Buying one (or more) and redirecting it to your actual website can’t provide you with any advantage because a redirected website (and its domain name) is never seen by the search engines. And besides, even if there was something magical about doing this, again, you’re only talking about one keyword phrase.

13. Republishing Only Others’ Stuff: While it’s fine to republish an article that someone else published first, if that’s all your blog consists of, it’s not going to help your search engine rankings. Instead of republishing entire articles, discuss them in your own posts and provide your thoughts and opinions on what’s good / bad / ugly about what the others are saying. It’s all about adding value.

14. Making Minor Changes to Freshen Content: This is not going to help a thing. If any old articles or posts need to be updated, then update them. But just changing a date or a few words will not have any effect on your search engine rankings or traffic.

15. Nofollowing Internal Links: Perhaps you’re not looking for your privacy policy page to be followed by the search engines, so you add a nofollow attribute to it. That’s all well and good, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that this will somehow control your PageRank flow and get you better rankings. It won’t.

16. Main Navigation That Links to Every Page: If linking to pages in your main navigation gives them more internal link popularity and therefore more possible weighting with the search engines, then surely linking to every single page of the site in your main navigation should be a good idea, right? Wrong! It isn’t. All it does is spread your internal link popularity too thin and confuse the heck out of your site visitors. Don’t do it. Choose to link only to top-level categories and perhaps subcategories (if you have a reasonable number of them) in your main navigation. This allows users to drill down further when they’re in the category sections themselves.

Did I miss any? I’m quite sure I’ve just touched the surface on waste-of-time SEO tactics. How about you? Do you agree with the above? Disagree?

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a SEO Consulting company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen.

68 Responses to “16 SEO Tactics That Will NOT Bring Targeted Google Visitors

    i like to know more about article writing. thanks

    avatar Ed Rude says:

    Jill, I want to thank you for this article. Both the article and the various comments were good thought provokers.

    Thanks again

    avatar James says:

    I think you missed one…


    IN any event… lets be real here for a second. Anyone notice the bizarre way that google images throws copyright warnings on images in image search with at least a tiny bit of accuracy? Maybe I am just seeing things?

    About your point 4. Header Tags Like H1 or H2, google yesterday posted:

    “One way Google’s algorithms determine the context of content on a page is by looking at the page’s headings. The way semantic markup is used throughout a site, including h1, h2, and h3 tags, helps us to understand the priorities of a site’s content. One should not fret, though, about every single H tag. Using common sense is the way to go.”

    Am I missing something?

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Yes, John, you are missing something. Stop looking at what Google SAYS they do, and look at what they actually do in practice.

    They say lots of things that are simply propaganda.

    avatar Ed Rude says:

    @Damian, The point was that Jill is basically pointing out that Google looks at unique, fresh, “information rich” content (on-page) and at the quality as well as quantity of links (off page). Google claims to use 200 factors to rate a website. And, while not telling us what all the various factors are, they have indicated fairly clearly that Content is King, and Quality Links is the Emperor.
    The Loyal Subjects of solid, informative content include tags like H1 and H2 and even the “no follow” tags for each of the comments on this page.
    For example: There are four basic types of links:
    1 Gains traffic
    2. Gets SEO ranking
    3 Does both
    4. Gets neither traffic nor better ranks in the SERPs
    Which is the most important kind, and which is trivial?

    On-Page: What is the most important, and what is the least important? Fresh Unique, Authoritative Information is most important. To see what Jill was talking about rate all the stuff other than Key-Word-Rich Fresh, Unique, and Authoritative Information, and see if you do not agree, some things are time wasters, and other things are where we msut focus.

    avatar damian s. says:

    Noo Jill, Google isn’t an SEO company and do not care for rankings.

    It’s been tried and tested that headings affect the rankings and usability of a website.

    Please just admit you made a boo boo – we still love you…

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    @Damian, my tests (as well as those of SEOmoz) prove otherwise.

    But if they work for you, then that’s great. Keep on trucking!

    avatar damian s. says:

    @Ed Rude, if you’re right that all the onsite little trivial stuff doesn’t matter compared to really decent links to really decent/supported/liked content then hey, SEO is out the window OR SEO is JUST writing good content and ‘asking’ other people to link to you (that’d be the SEO action) or be lucky enough to get linked to.

    SEO = Offer good content
    SEO – Get links to content

    Oh, looks like the vacuum cleaner company in detroit that’s #1 in the SERPs is an SEO. No.

    There’s just no such thing as an SEO anymore.

    Google won!

    avatar Doc Sheldon says:

    “Stop looking at what Google SAYS they do, and look at what they actually do in practice.

    They say lots of things that are simply propaganda.”

    Deciding for oneself, rather than blindly believing whatever is said, is wise, to be sure. But I watch Google pretty closely, as do most SEO professionals, and I have yet to see them flat-out lie.

    What they DON’T say is often a factor, and how much weight to be put on what they DO say is another aspect. But out-and-out lie? Nope.

    And frankly, even if one did believe that they were lying, exactly why would we accept that what YOU say is true, when our own evidence says otherwise, Jill?

    avatar SEO Bedford says:

    I agree and disagree with certain things you said on Tactic nº5 – I do agree that you have to add your kws to alt tags on clickable images, the alt tags is the anchor text. But are you saying that editing alt tags of non-clickable images have no effect in the optimisation of a given page?

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Doc, you shouldn’t believe what I say or what anyone says for that matter when it comes to SEO. You should take whatever elements that ring true for you, and after careful consideration, trying and testing, learn for yourself what works and what doesn’t for the types of sites and markets you work with.

    For many things Google says it is pure promotion, is this OK?

    avatar Ryan says:

    The only thing that I disagree with in your article is putting an alt tag on images that are not clickable. Since the bots can not read any image, why not use it on them all? You would be surprised how many people search items through the image search. I know it depends on the site that you are running, but if you are running any type of retail, then you should make sure that you have that alt tag on all images.

    Most everything else you said was spot on, and thanks for sharing with us.

    avatar BobAJob says:


    I find i would have to disagree with a lot of the stuff you mentioned. S.E.O as stated is one particular item, it’s a combination of good practice, even using meta keywords, and alt’s on images.

    I am ranked for single keywords and double keywords, maybe this is why you seem to have problems with your own SEO.

    avatar On Page SEO Factors to Not Forget | Eksee Biz says:

    […] Editor’s Note: For additional information on the techniques noted below, and in some cases an alternate viewpoint, read Jill Whalen’s article “16 SEO Tactics That Will NOT Bring Targeted Google Visitors”. […]

    avatar Gem says:

    Great article, Thanks for sharing, very useful for us. 16 SEO Tactics That Will NOT Bring Targeted Google Visitors like these help out a lot. Keep it going…………

    […] Editor’s Note: For additional information on the techniques noted below, and in some cases an alternate viewpoint, read Jill Whalen’s article “16 SEO Tactics That Will NOT Bring Targeted Google Visitors“. […]

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